Aging is a natural process that every person experiences day after day. It is normal for your body and mind to change as you age. You may find that your hair is turning gray or white in color, or your skin is sagging and wrinkling.
While those are regular bodily changes, you may choose to improve the look of your skin, hair, and body. But you should also focus on keeping yourself healthy during aging.
Even though aging is inevitable, try incorporating a few of these habits into your daily routine to stay healthy as you age.
Smoking can age your skin faster than expected. The habit takes a significant toll on your appearance, contributing to:
- Premature skin aging
- Stained teeth
- Increased psoriasis risk
“Smoking increases wrinkles due to facial motion, and it also has a vasoconstricting effect, which means it chokes off blood vessel circulation,” explained David Stoll, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and author of A Woman’s Skin.
In addition to skin problems, smoking increases your risk of developing lung cancer and heart disease. Add those to the long list of reasons to quit.
Antioxidants protect your cells from free radical damage. Free radicals are harmful substances that contribute to the onset of several chronic diseases, like cardiovascular diseases and cancer, as well as premature aging, fine lines, and wrinkles.
The most common antioxidants are vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. If you eat foods rich in antioxidants, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, you can protect yourself from signs of aging.
Fermented foods like kimchi, yogurt, and sauerkraut are good for your gut and provide a dose of probiotics. Probiotics are organisms that aid with digestion.
“Fermented foods have excellent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” said Craig Kraffert, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Redding, Calif.
Beauty products that are made with fermented extracts may also make a difference. Dr. Kraffert recommended products that contain ingredients like fermented ginkgo biloba nut or mushroom extract.
“The most commonly cited benefits of fermented extracts within skincare products are skin calming and brightening,” added Dr. Kraffert.
Insufficient sleep is linked to a host of health problems, such as:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
Along with those health problems, not getting enough sleep can age your brain by three to five years. Make sure you’re falling asleep quickly to get a good night’s rest.
If you have trouble sleeping, avoid caffeine before bed and exercise during the early afternoon or late evening. Also, remove electronic devices from your bedroom and make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and relaxing before sleeping.
Keeping your heart healthy is essential when it comes to aging. Your heart and blood vessels change as you age, increasing your risk of heart disease.
One of the ways you can protect your heart is by eating foods rich in healthy fats. That will decrease the risk of clotting, improve blood vessel function, and reduce blood pressure.
We all know how important exercising is for our health, but maintaining a consistent fitness routine can be elusive for some of us.
One key to consistently exercising is finding an activity you enjoy (and don’t dread), so search for something that gets you excited.
Regular exercise has a positive effect on your brain and bone health. Exercising will improve your thinking, learning, and judgment skills as you age. And it will keep your bones, joints, and muscles healthy so you can do your daily activities.
People who experience chronic stress will age faster. Some evidence suggests that stress is also a risk factor for cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disease, and neurological diseases.
You can relieve stress by mediating or praying, resting, walking outside, deep breathing, or even adopting a pet.
Exfoliating using beads or chemical peels is a go-to skincare strategy for sloughing off dead skin and revealing a smoother complexion underneath. But it’s essential to ensure you’re not aggravating your face.
“Too much exfoliation is counterproductive,” said Dr. Stoll, who recommended consulting your dermatologist about the best exfoliation method for your skin type.
If you only have one anti-aging product in your medicine cabinet, make it a retinoid. Dermatologists recommend the powerful skincare ingredient (a derivative of vitamin A) for its ability to accelerate cell renewal.
Retinoids improve fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, pigmentation, and texture and boost collagen production.
“Retinoids turn over skin cells and boost collagen production, which leads to more youthful-looking skin,” explained Angela J. Lamb, MD, associate professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.
New to retinoids? The ingredient can initially dry your skin or cause more acne. So, start off slowly by using the retinoid every other day and selecting products with a lower percentage in your regimen. Then, slowly work your way up into using the product every day or try a higher percentage.
You may already know that eating high-sodium foods makes your body retain water, leaving you feeling heavy and bloated.
Therefore, it should be no surprise that salty foods trigger a similar response in your face. For example, they may give you a puffier appearance (like under your eyes).
Start cooking with salt-free flavor boosters such as garlic, lemon juice, and fresh herbs to cut back gradually. Not only will you look less bloated, but a low-sodium diet will also reduce your risk of high blood pressure.
Are you drinking enough water each day? Drinking water helps lubricate your joints, eliminate waste, and carry nutrients and oxygen to your cells.
If you live in a humid, hot environment, are especially physically active, or experiencing a bout of illness that causes fever or diarrhea, you will need more water than normal.
So, remember to carry a water bottle with you while running errands and pour a glass of water to enjoy with every meal.
And speaking of drinking, keep in mind: Alcohol dehydrates the body because it increases urination.
“Dehydrated skin is more likely to appear dry, sallow, dull, and crepey,” said Marnie Nussbaum, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York.
Additionally, excessively drinking alcohol can lead to long-term health issues like high blood pressure, cancer, weakened immune system, mental health problems, and more.
Typically, our hands don’t receive the same tender, love, and care that we lavish on the rest of our bodies regarding sun protection and anti-aging creams.
Signs of aging in your hands can include spots, rough patches, changes in texture, wrinkles, and brittle nails. But thankfully, there are ways to reverse the signs of aging hands, such as:
- Laser therapy
- Skin creams and lotions
- Chemical peels
Safe-sun practices help you avoid wrinkles and dark spots, but there are other benefits.
“Your best bet is to stop daily damage before it gets serious,” noted Dr. Kraffert.
In fact, not being diligent about applying sunscreen can have dire consequences. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. But if you wear sunscreen while outside, you protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
Be sure to wear an SPF of at least 30 on areas of the skin that your clothing does not cover.
Regular appointments at your dermatologist’s office will ensure you’re up-to-date on the latest anti-aging skincare developments.
Your dermatologist may recommend treatments for more dramatic results than you’d get from home remedies or even from a trip to the spa.
For example, Dr. Stoll suggested an exfoliating peel containing glycolic or trichloracetic acid for patients.
“Aestheticians can legally use up to 20%, but doctors can use stronger strengths, like 70% glycolic acid,” explained Dr. Stoll.
Moisturizing takes more effort than just slapping some lotion on your face.
“All those pricey anti-aging products you’ve invested in will work more effectively if you use them on clean, moist skin,” noted Dr. Kraffert.
When you get out of the shower, Dr. Kraffert suggested applying lotion within three minutes—before water on the skin can fully evaporate.
“Not only will you get the benefits of the moisturizer itself, but you’ll help seal in the hydration from the water,” explained Dr. Kraffert. “If you wait too long and that water evaporates from your skin, it can take some of your body’s natural moisture with it.”
Experts are divided on whether or not a diet that includes lots of vitamin C superfoods, such as citrus, peppers, and kale, can ward off signs of aging. But it certainly does not hurt to add more of those foods to your plate.
Additionally, a vitamin C serum may offer more noticeable benefits.
“Topical vitamin C is much more important for preventing wrinkles than oral vitamin C,” explained Dr. Stoll.
A topical vitamin C formula has several health benefits, such as:
- Slows the signs of aging
- Reduces wrinkles, dark spots, and acne
- Prevents sun damage
- Contains antioxidants
Additionally, one study showed that daily use of vitamin C over three weeks improved the appearance of wrinkles and skin texture on the face and neck.
Stained, yellowed teeth can add years to your face. Remove stains with whitening toothpaste or strips to feel more confident about your smile.
You can also prevent discoloration by having regular dental cleanings, brushing your teeth twice daily, avoiding foods like coffee, tea, and red wine, and not smoking.
If you have a smartphone, you probably look down at it constantly throughout the day.
“Fine lines and wrinkles can form over decades’ time through repeat motions,” explained Dr. Nussbaum.
While there’s no fast fix, maintaining good posture and holding your smartphone at eye level can help. Dr. Nussbaum also recommended applying a firming lotion daily.
“I favor lotions that are formulated with antioxidants and ingredients like shea butter and argan oil,” recommended Dr. Nussbaum.
Can you imagine going a day without straightening your hair? Well, you should only use heat on your hair once a week—or even less than that.
When you use heat on your hair, use the lowest heat setting. That will prevent hair damage, restore your hair’s bounce and shine, and help you look younger.
Master the wet bun, learn to love dry shampoo, or embrace your natural texture and allow your mane to air dry.
Your body changes as you get older, and the process of aging is natural and normal. As you get older, it is natural for your hair color to turn gray and your skin to sag and wrinkle.
While we can’t prevent aging, there are different ways to keep yourself healthy as you age. Get enough sleep, protect your skin with sunscreen, eat a balanced diet, exercise, and manage your stress.
Those are only some of the many ways you can take care of your body as you go through the natural process of aging. If you take care of yourself, your body will thank you in the long run.